Proof that even the most promising topic can be drained of meaning
by a heavy-handed ideological analysis. Codevilla (International
Relations/Boston Univ.; Informing Statecraft, 1992) aspires to join
the great tradition of thinkers who have explored the relationship
between political regimes and the character of the governed.
Unfortunately, he seeks to buttress convictions, rather than
acquire knowledge. Having assumed, for example, the superiority of
the two-parent, patriarchal family, he sets out to selectively mine
human experience for anecdotes supporting his predetermined
conclusions. While this effort degenerates into predictable
rantings about contemporary American politics and culture, there is
a sense in which Codevilla has succeeded in this volume. The
problem confronting culture warriors is that their basic themes are
so familiar, it is difficult to say anything new. But if each
contribution to the attack on the hated liberal establishment is
read as an entry in a contest to see who can construct the most
outlandish straw man, then Codevilla is both competitive and
entertaining. In his view, "modern Western regimes are inherently
enemies of families," perpetrating outrages such as eliminating
"laws that give married men advantages in competing for jobs."
According to him, the US government has made abortion "the most
absolute right in the land" and is "responsible for the
universities' uniform hostility to religion, to Western culture,
and to America in general" - trends furthered by the fact that,
with few exceptions outside the hard sciences, universities "have
hired only political leftists." His tendency to condemn absolutely,
eliminating all nuance or complexity from social analysis, gives
Codevilla an edge in the competition and should amuse readers who
can appreciate his willingness to set reality aside in pursuit of
seductive generalizations. (Kirkus Reviews)
In the tradition of Thomas Sowell and Stephen Carter, a broad
cross-cultural study of how the nature of a regime affects the
character of its people - is back in print for the first time in a
decade. In the new millennium, people around the world are
reexamining and reinventing their political systems, conscious that
political choices imply different ways of life. In this newly
reissued cross-cultural study, Angelo M. Codevilla illustrates that
as people shape their governments, they shape themselves. Drawing
broadly from the sweep of history, from the Roman republic to de
Tocqueville's America to the Soviet Union, as well as from personal
and scholarly observations of the world in the twentieth century,
"The Character of Nations" reveals remarkable truths about the
effects of government on a society's economic arrangements, moral
and religious order, sense of family life, and ability to defend
itself.Codevilla argues that in present-day America, government has
had a profound negative effect on societal norms. It has taught
people to seek prosperity through connections with political power;
fostered the atrophy of civic responsibility; waged a Kulturkampf
against family and religion; and dug a dangerous chasm between
those who serve in the military and those who send it in harm's
way. Informative and provocative, "The Character of Nations" shows
how the political decisions we make have higher stakes than simply
who wins elections.
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